Like many recent clients, Hale County Hospital approached Rural Studio first. The hospital hoped to create a garden or courtyard in barren space flanked by prosaic brick façades. The issues were more than aesthetic: This area flooded routinely and offered no shelter for the sidewalk that connected two wings.The thesis team began by laying 1,200 feet of drainage pipe to siphon away storm runoff. They then set about designing key elements that would provide shade, seating, and a place for plants. A large trellis made of expanded metal (shown above) forms the dominant element, which will evolve into a “green gazebo” outside the patient rooms as cross vine and confederate jasmine overtake it. With input from structural experts, the metal sheets were bent and bolted together so that they span overhead like a box beam.
Planters were fabricated from thin sheets of Cor-Ten steel, which has the strength to support soil and will block the spread of the bamboo inside. Cor-Ten was also used to fabricate a small koi pond that incorporates a bench of cypress planks on one end. A metal pergola spans above the “front porch,” a raised platform tucked against one of the hospital's exterior walls. A proposal by the student team calls for the conversion of poorly used hospital space into a conference room that would lead directly to the shaded porch.
Two additional planters recall earlier times at the Rural Studio, when salvaged materials were the norm. Twenty palettes of white marble—mostly discarded headstones—were delivered to the site, split with a homemade guillotine, finished, and stacked to form the planter walls.
Now a sleek, galvanized steel canopy (above, in background at far left) hung from an asymmetrical steel frame covers the “fast track” sidewalk, where nurses wheel patients between the emergency room and patient wing.
PROJECT TEAM (FALL '05–SPRING '07): Blair Bricken, Nathan Foust, Nicholas Gray, Heidi Schattin